We were up early for the 6am shuttle from Lake Atitlan to El Tunco (El Salvador). We haddn't been able to find out much information about border crossings into El Salvador so we decided to spend the extra money on a shuttle which would take us all the way through instead of chicken busing it. We know some others who ended up chicken busing it and it was totally fine (and about half the price!) but never mind. The border crossing posed no problems at all and if we were to do it again I would do it on the local buses. 

Its really hard to find out much information about being a tourist in El Salvador. Its the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America, and it seems that none of the 'tour operators' even venture there. A vicious civil war and numerous natural disasters, combined with the seeming exotic-ness of its neighbouring countries means that many tourists give the place a wide berth  I have to admit that I was pretty nervous about visiting there, but Ty's determination and a few positive stories from other backpackers made me give in. I'm really glad we did. The war ended 20 years ago, and crime, while serious, is almost exclusively played out between rival gangs; tourists are virtually never involved.

Driving along the Pacific coast is spectacular, the road winds along the coastline providing glimpses of virtually deserted beaches and rolling surf; the hillside dotted with rustic accommodations. The trees soaking up the heat from the tarmac form an arched tunnel over the road making it look like the perfect setting for a romantic movie. 

Arriving in El Tunco, a laid back surfer town that anywhere else in the world would be heaving, we had our shuttle driver drop us off at a cheap hostel he knew of called Mo Koi. For $1 more than the price of a dorm we scored ourselves a double room with bathroom and fan. Aircon would have been amazing but electricity prices are high here, and this is reflected in the air con room cost so it wasn't to be. Our room opened up onto a lovely balcony where we spent a good few hours lazing on the hammocks, nestled among the trees,  listening to waves crash onto the shore nearby.
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Sunrise at the beach
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Torogoz - El Salvador's national bird
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Local guy on the beach
Although still pretty deserted during the week, the town has obviously become more popular in the last few years, as our lonely planet from 2010 lists just 4 hostels and there is a plethora of choice now. Weekends see a lot of rich El Salvadorians from the city head down. The restaurants are cheap and cheerful and the ice cream and fresh fruit smoothies are just what is needed in the hot sun. Its pretty cool walking along the black volcanic sand beach seeing it sparkle like diamonds in the sunshine. 

We met up with Adam and Georgie, a South African couple we had met on the shuttle from Lanquin, and then realised that a guy called Julian who we had hung out with on Caye Caulker was also in town. The main draw for this coastline is the excellent surfing opportunities. Apart from Georgie, none of us have ever surfed before so we decided to check another thing off our bucket lists and signed up for a lesson. Super cheap at $10 for a lesson and then $10 for all day board hire. Up at the crack of dawn for 7am lessons we practised standing up at the surf shop before heading straight into the surf for some one on one instruction. The 3.5 - 4ft waves were pretty choppy due to the onshore wind, aparently not ideal conditions for beginners but oh well. 

My instructor lead me in to the water and showed me how to jump and paddle through the waves to get the board out deep enough. Looking over to my left and I saw Adam standing up and riding a wave to the shore! Yea buddy, good work!! I felt pretty unco trying to stand up on the board on the shore but things felt a lot more natural once we were in the water and I had the force of the waves propelling me forward. After about 45 minutes I got knocked sideways, swallowing a bunch of water. Needing to cough my lungs up, my instructor and I started heading into the shore. Unfortunately a massive foamy wave was following us. My instructor threw the board up and over the wave and I ducked under the water. Unfortunately when I came up to the surface the board came down, with the fins of the board landing on my head. It hurt a bit and I came out of the water holding my head. "esta bien?(you ok?)" came from my instructor...."um, no - ouch" I said, pointing at my skull . He looked at my head and I heard him utter an "ohhh, shit!". Great. Don't say that! I took my hand down and saw it covered in blood. Dammit! After washing the cut off, and a thorough inspection by everyone they determined that stitches were needed, so off on the back of a motorcycle (my first motorcycle ride ever!) I went to the local hospital in La Libertad. Fortunately the one instructor who spoke both english and spanish took me so he was able to explain to the doctor what had happened. Much to the doctors amusement. Silly gringa! 
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Practising at the shop
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Almost!
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Time for a rest
The hospital definitely lived up to the 3rd world medical cliches. Leaking air conditioning units on the walls, bugs crawling across the floor, and rusty equipment. Not to mention the pile of HIV/Aids prevention posters on the walls (El Salvador has very high infection rates). It was certainly enough to make me a little nervous about the level of care  I was going to receive, and wish that I had stopped by the hostel on the way to pick up the needles in my first aid kit. But the fear was unnecessary as the lovely doctor put on fresh gloves and let me see him taking the needle from sterile packaging. 3 stitches later and he sent me on my way with instructions to clean it every day and a bunch of antibiotics. The best part? it was all completely free so no call to the travel insurance people needed!

We decided to would spend an extra day chilling out to give my head a bit of rest before heading north to Honduras. Waking up the following morning and I now completely understand why surfers are so cut! So many muscles I didn't know existed were hurting! haha. Ty finally came to admit that he's an old man now as it took him 2 days to recover!

Next stop: Utila (Honduras)
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Ty and Adam
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Adam showing us how its done!
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Ouchies!
 





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